In the 1st millennium BC. Illyrian tribes settled the entire Balkans and thus also the area of today’s Bosnia-Herzegovina. From around 400 BC Celtic peoples migrated from Central Europe. Influences of ancient Greece were also important in the next centuries. In the 2nd century BC The area became part of the Roman province “Illyricum”, from the 1st century AD. it belongs to the province “Dalmatia”.
After the division of the Roman Empire in AD 395. The region initially belonged to the Western Roman, from the end of the 5th century to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. From the 6th century onwards, Slavic tribes (among them Serbs and Croats) immigrated to the area of today’s Bosnia-Herzegovina and partially mixed with the Roman-influenced Christian population. Byzantium and Serbian kingdoms alternated in the domination of the region over the next centuries.
- COUNTRYAAH: See current national flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Download high definition image, and learn flag meanings as well as the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina flags.
Between Islam and Christianity
In the 12th century the country came under Hungarian influence. According to AbbreviationFinder, the Principality of Bosnia was founded in 1180. In the 14th century, independent Bosnian empires emerged under Stefan Kotromanic and Tvrtko I. However, they repeatedly fell under foreign rule. In 1463 the Ottomans (Turks) conquered the area of Bosnia, around 20 years later the Hum area, known since 1448 as “Herzegovina”, which was also conquered.
In 1580 Bosnia and Herzegovina was merged into one province (Paschalik). During the approximately 400-year Ottoman occupation, a large part of the population converted to Islam. Gradually, the religious tripartite division of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina that still exists today developed into an Islamic majority, a Serbian Orthodox and a Croatian Catholic section of the population.
The region was repeatedly the scene of wars between the Ottomans and the Christian empires such as Austria over the next few centuries. In 1878, the areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina were placed under the administration of Austria-Hungary at the Berlin conference. When troops of the double monarchy annexed the country in October 1908, this triggered massive protests from Russia, Turkey and Serbia. The international crisis culminated in the First World War, which was triggered by the Serbian assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. When the defeat of Austria-Hungary and the German Empire began to emerge, it came on a series of negotiations on the merger of the South Slavs into a common state. From the outset, two opposing ideas were pursued: While the Serbs sought a Kingdom of Greater Serbia under the leadership of a Serb, the “Yugoslav Committee” chaired by Croatian Ante Trumbic pursued the goal of a federal Yugoslavia (country of the South Slavs). In July 1917, an agreement was reached on the creation of a South Slavic nation state based on the equality of the various ethnic groups and under the leadership of the Serbian Dynasty.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia
In December 1918, Bosnia-Herzegovina became a non-autonomous province of the newly created “United Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes”, which was ruled by the Serbian monarch Peter I. Karadjordjevic. Right from the start, the state had to struggle with domestic and foreign policy tensions: these were separatist movements within the state and conflicts over territories, for example with Romania, Hungary, Italy and Albania.
From 1929 the kingdom was called “Yugoslavia”. In 1941, Yugoslavia was occupied by the troops of the German Wehrmacht and divided between the Axis powers. Much of Bosnia and Croatia was part of a fascist state structure controlled by Italy (“Independent State of Croatia”). Croatians and Serbs fought each other, Croatian communists led by Josip Broz Tito fought the Croatian army. After the end of the Second World War, Bosnia-Herzegovina became part of the “Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia”, which was created by Tito (from 1963 “Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia”). Muslims, Serbs and Croats were treated as separate ethnic groups.However, tensions between ethnic groups continued and increased after Tito’s death in 1980.
In 1990 the Communist Party renounced its monopoly on power in Yugoslavia. A large number of parties quickly formed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, based on the different ethnic groups and their objectives. After the first free elections in 1990, the following parties emerged as relevant political forces: the Muslim party “Democratic Action” (SDA, 86 seats), the “Serbian Democratic Party” (SDS, 72 seats) and the “Croatian Democratic Union” (HDZ, 44 seats). Their vote share essentially corresponds to the respective population share. Muslim Alija Izetbegovic became chairman of a coalition government.
After Slovenia and Croatia separated from Yugoslavia (June 1991), the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina also worsened: Both Serbs and Croats formed their own independent regions. Serbs spoke out for cohesion in a Yugoslav state (under Serbian leadership), Croatians and Muslims demanded the detachment from Belgrade. The Republika Bosna i Hercegovina declared its independence on March 3, 1992, after a referendum in February 1992, boycotted by the Serbs, in which over 60% of the participating population spoke out in favor of establishing its own state. The head of state was the Muslim Alija Izetbegovic. The new state was recognized internationally within a short time.
Combat had already taken place beforehand when the Yugoslav army occupied cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina to prevent the part-republic from being split off. After the declaration of independence, the civil war broke out between Serbs supported by the Yugoslav army, Croats and Muslims (who called themselves “Bosniaks”). By May 1992, Serbian troops had more than two thirds of Bosnia and Herzegovina under their control.
In the same month, Serbia and Montenegro decided to found the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Economic sanctions were imposed on this state by the UN, and it was initially denied international recognition (until mid-1994). In the civil war between Serbs, Croats and Muslims, the coalition between the last two collapsed when the Croatian Union Herceg-Bosna was proclaimed in August after Croatian territorial gains. Now all three groups fought among themselves. The UN peacekeeping soldiers stationed could not do anything against the serious violations of human rights. In the course of “ethnic cleansing” and the destruction of cultural sites, the population distribution in Bosnia and Herzegovina changed drastically: Now the members of the ethnic groups each lived in the area controlled by their militias. Especially the Muslims,
Efforts to mediate between the EU and the UN to divide the country into three autonomous regions according to the shares of ethnic groups in the population were rejected by all three parties to the civil war. The Bosnian parliament justified the rejection by saying that more than half of the country’s area should become Serbian territory (31% for Muslims, 18% for Croatians). Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic also rejected the proposal.
In June 1993, the UN Security Council decided to create six protection zones for Bosnian Muslims and to deploy 25,000 UN soldiers. In some of these protection zones, such as Sarajevo, Srebrenica and Goradze, attacks by Serbian militias continued, which still controlled over two thirds of the area of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
An initial agreement was reached between Bosnian President Izetbegovic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in September 1993, and a ceasefire agreement was signed in February 1994 by both parties. A “Bosniak-Croatian Federation” of both groups was decided in an area that was to occupy about two thirds of the area of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Within two months, a president and a deputy were elected and general elections prepared. At the same time as the Federation, the government of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina under Alija Izetbegovic still existed.
Formal peace negotiations only started in November 1995 after massive military action. On December 14, 1995, the Presidents of Serbia (Slobodan Miloševic), Croatia (Franjo Tudjman) and Bosnia (Alija Izetbegovic) signed a peace treaty in Dayton / USA: Bosnia and Herzegovina remained as a single state within its existing borders, with Sarajevo as the capital. The territory was divided into two autonomous areas: the “Bosniak-Croatian Federation” covers 51% of the country, the “Serbian Republic of Bosnia” 49%. The peace plan also provided for the establishment of a central government, a bicameral parliament and a three-member presidency, each with a Croat, a Serb and a Bosniak, who take turns chairing each other. The government is run by two equal prime ministers, who alternate weekly in the chair.
A humanitarian and economic aid and development program was also decided and the deployment of an international peacekeeping force (IFOR, later SFOR) under NATO command.
Development since 1996
In September 1996, the first elections took place after the end of the civil war. In 1998, a common currency was introduced for the two Bosnian states (convertible mark, KM). In May 1999, a common economic area was formed by a customs union. However, there is still tension between the ethnic groups. The Peace Implementation Council (PIC) of 55 states and international organizations is responsible for monitoring the peace process.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague rejected Bosnia and Herzegovina’s lawsuit against Serbia (as legal successor to the former Yugoslavia) for genocide in the Bosnian war in 2007. The court ruled that although Serbia (under the then ruling Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic) was not guilty of genocide, Serbia did support the Bosnian-Serb units in “ethnic cleansing”.